We have been using tire water tanks at ESF for four years and I still think they are one of the best options available for watering livestock efficiently. They hold a large volume of water, they keep the water cool in the summer, a large number of cattle can drink at one time, and they are indestructible. However, in extremely cold weather they do freeze. Anyone that tells you different is trying to sell you one.
When conditions are normal in January with lows in the 20's and highs in the mid 30's we don't have any issue with ice at all. The tires typically stay ice free down to about 20 degrees if they have cattle drinking on them at all. Once the temperature falls below 20 degrees the tires start to accumulate ice at varying degrees depending on several factors. Number of cows drinking, sunlight, wind, etc, all have effects on the formation of ice. However, with brutally cold temperatures (at least for Kentucky) of single digits and lower, you can expect ice no matter what other factors the tire is experiencing.
The last two days of January were extremes for Kentucky. At ESF we experienced a low temperature of -5 degrees with 35 mph winds creating wind chill readings as low as -25 degrees below 0. Any exposed water froze!
So with axe and manure forks in tow, Greg and I started our day chopping open all the tire tanks so the cattle had access to fresh water. There were four tanks to chop in all and the task took us a little over an hour to complete.
While you don't have to worry about chipping or cracking the tank, you do have to be careful with the pvc overflow pipes that stick up out of the water. As you could imagine, they are very brittle and break easily if you don't chip around them before you bust the ice in the rest of the tank. The tall metal pipe you see here was the only replacement we had on hand when the pvc pipe busted.
And as I said earlier, any exposed water froze!
On the first morning with 0 degree temperatures the ice was about an inch thick. Most of the other tire water tanks were similar.
The replacement heifers were waiting on us chop their tank. We had chopped it free of ice the previous afternoon, but there were ready for a drink by the next morning.
Notice that this 8 foot tire is watering 5 head on a quarter of the tire. That means that this tire could water 20 head at one time! I would consider that an increase in efficiency when multiple thirsty animals try to drink at the same time.
Those 24 heifers all got a drink and then headed down into a holler to get out of the wind. That afternoon Greg and I checked all the water tanks again. This one had frozen back over with a 1/2 inch of ice in about 6 hours.
That tire had the most ice on it again that afternoon. It gets the most wind, and there were only 24 heifers drinking from it. There was another tire that had 61 steers drinking from it that had a slight film of ice froze back over. It was still soft enough that the steers could drink from it. The 68 cows had a tire that didn't have much ice at all froze back on it. It did have more of a windbreak at that location that help alleviate some of the wind chill factor.
As you can see the stainless steel float draws the cold down into the water. The ice forms around that float first. This picture was taken about 6 hours after clearing the ice off in the morning.
We did have one tire that never froze completely despite not having any cattle drinking from it at all. It was the tire that the developed spring flows into. This tire has continuous flow from the spring into the tire, and then out the pvc drain pipe and into the creek.
The "warmer" spring water coupled with the fact that the water flows continually helps to keep this tire open. If there had been animals drinking from it I doubt it would have had any ice on it at all.
For all of you that have wondered or asked if the tire tanks freeze, the answer is yes. But don't get me wrong, I love the tire water tanks. But the past two days, they were a lot of work.